Healthy living

Face masks

Mask use is encouraged in crowded indoor settings and where physical distancing is not possible.

Under current public health and social measures (external site), masks are required for people aged 12 years and over (year 7 and over for schools):

  • at hospitals and healthcare settings (see below)
  • at residential aged care facilities, other residential care facilities and correctional facilities
  • if you leave your place of isolation as an asymptomatic close contact.

Mask use is recommended in indoor settings for cases for two days after completion of their 5-day isolation period.

Always carry a mask when you leave home. Even if you are not required to wear a mask, you should consider wearing one whenever physical distancing is not possible.

Never share your face mask with others. Scarves and bandanas are not suitable to be used as face masks.

See how to put on and take off your face mask (PDF 1MB).

Healthcare settings

A healthcare setting includes any health facility where healthcare is delivered to patients face-to-face. These include:

  • public and private hospitals
  • ambulance and patient transport services
  • primary health clinics (including general practitioner clinics, Aboriginal health services, private nurse offices and maternal, child, and dental health clinics)
  • specialist outpatient services and day procedure centres
  • allied health services including radiology, physiotherapy and occupational therapy services.

Masks are not mandated for healthcare settings that do not have face-to-face interaction with patients (including telehealth services, pathology laboratories and corporate areas within health facilities).

If you believe you need wear a mask in certain circumstances, you are encouraged to do so.

Other measures

Other COVID safe protective measures, such as hand hygiene, staying home when unwell and physical distancing remain effective measures to protect you and others.

Read the Infection Control Expert Group statement (external site) on community use of masks in the context of Omicron.

What are the different types of face mask?

Single use surgical face masks – discard after use

Surgical masks are single use items and must be disposed after every use.

These are recommended for use if you:

  • are caring for someone with COVID-19,
  • have COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-9 or
  • are over 60 or
  • have underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, cancer etc.

If you have, or are suspected to have, COVID-19, you must wear a surgical mask if you cannot avoid being in close contact with someone, e.g. if you are self-isolating and need to visit a GP or hospital.

NB: N95 and P2 respirators are only recommended for healthcare workers or specific industries in specific circumstances.

Reusable fabric masks

Fabric masks should not be worn by healthcare workers at work or by people aged over 60 or with underlying medical conditions.

Fabric masks are used for source control. That is, they act as a barrier between your mouth and nose and the surrounding environment to protect those around you.

Fabric masks must be 3 layers. Each layer requires a different type of fabric.

These should be washed at least once a day, and when wet or visibly dirty. Wash with laundry detergent on the hottest setting (preferably at least 60 degrees C). Avoid using disinfectants to clean the mask because they may produce fumes that are harmful to inhale.

If you are unable to machine wash, wash in hot water with a laundry detergent then rinse thoroughly.

Make sure your fabric mask is dry before re-using.

Once dry, store your clean fabric masks in a disposable, sealable plastic bag to protect from contamination.

Over time, your fabric masks will need to be replaced. Replace your fabric mask if:

  • it no longer fits snugly
  • it starts to slide or fall off
  • there are any holes
  • you find you need to keep adjusting the fit
  • the material has started to wear or fray.
How do I take off my mask safely?

If you need to remove your face mask, you should be a safe distance from others. Remember to perform hand hygiene after removing your mask.

If using a surgical mask, dispose of it in the bin immediately after use.

If removing a reusable fabric mask, place it in a sealed disposable plastic bag until it can be washed. Used fabric masks must be kept separate from clean fabric masks until they can be washed. Do not store used masks in the same bag as the clean ones.

If using your mask for prolonged periods, you may need more than one mask. Masks should be changed if they become wet or soiled.

Surgical masks are single use items that will need changing after 4 hours, if they become moist/soiled and in between breaks. Dispose of the mask in the bin immediately after use. You will need to perform regular hand hygiene when wearing a mask.

How do I get rid of my mask?

Surgical masks

  • To safely remove any type of face mask practise hand hygiene, remove the mask and then perform hand hygiene again.
  • Single use masks must be placed into a rubbish bin at the point of removal.
  • If a rubbish bin is not immediately available, the mask must be taken to the nearest rubbish bin in a safe manner to ensure the used mask cannot contaminate other items/belongings or people. This may need to be done in a bag such as a labelled resealable bag which can then be disposed of at the nearest rubbish bin.
  • Avoid placing used surgical masks in cars, pockets and directly into handbags/backpacks/luggage as used masks may pose a risk of contamination to other items/belongings and people.
  • Always practise hand hygiene after handling used masks and other items of rubbish.

Fabric masks

  • To safely remove any type of face mask practise hand hygiene, remove the mask and then perform hand hygiene again.
  • Fabric masks that are reusable, should be washed after every use, or when wet or visibly dirty.
  • After removing the fabric mask it should be stored in a safe manner until the wearer can wash it. Labelled resealable bags or lidded plastic containers that can also be cleaned after each use are an appropriate way to transport used fabric masks.
  • Avoid placing used fabric masks in cars, pockets and directly into handbags/backpacks/luggage as used masks may pose a risk of contamination to other items/belongings and people.
  • At the earliest opportunity wash with the fabric mask with laundry detergent on the hottest setting (preferably at least 60 degrees Celsius). Avoid using disinfectants to clean the mask because they may produce fumes that are harmful to inhale.
  • If you are unable to machine wash, wash in hot water with a laundry detergent then rinse thoroughly.
  • Make sure your fabric mask is dry before re-using.
  • Store clean dry masks in a labelled resealable bag to protect from contamination.
  • Always practise hand hygiene after handling used masks and other items of rubbish.
Mask wearing for children

Children aged 12 years and over (year 7 and over for schools) may be required to wear masks in certain settings, or if they leave their place of isolation as an asymptomatic close contact.

Mask wearing protects children from COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. This helps WA maintain its workforce as parents can continue to work as usual. Parents should anticipate initial issues:

  • Your child may not want to wear a mask, may feel dizzy and have a hard time keeping it on
  • Children with anxiety, sensory differences, and autism can find it difficult to wear a mask
  • Your child may be extra sensitive to the way the mask feels on their face, head, and ears
  • Some children may even feel panicked when a mask is put on them

There is no medical evidence (external site) related to masks causing physical, emotional, psychological or developmental harm in children, or producing bacterial pneumonia (external site) or depriving children of oxygen.

Choose a well-fitting and comfortable mask

A poorly fitting or uncomfortable mask might be worn incorrectly or removed often, which would reduce its benefits. The mask should fit over the child’s nose and under the chin and should not impair vision.

Mask exemptions

Parents who have concerns or whose child has a medical condition are encouraged to speak to their child’s GP for credible medical advice on the use of a mask before mask fitting.

Mask exemptions need to be sought from your medical practitioner, who will only grant exemptions on medical grounds.

How should you talk to a child in a mask?

Turn to face your child and use plenty of eye contact. Try speaking more loudly, slowly and clearly so your child can hear you through the mask. Use exaggerated expressions so your smile or surprise shows in your eyes. Use body language and gestures like nodding and gently touching your child to show you’re listening.

Last reviewed: 09-09-2022

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Coronavirus information helplines: 13 COVID (13 268 43). Interstate callers: 1800 595 206. International callers: +61 8 9118 3100.